THEATRE REVIEW: 'Master Harold' and The Boys ★★★
‘Master Harold’ and The Boys
National Theatre, London
Saturday 21st September - Tuesday 17th December 2019
It’s 1950, and set against the backdrop of Hally’s (Anson Boon) parent’s tearoom in Apartheid, Soth Africa, Sam (Lucian Msamati) and Willie (Hammed Animashaun) as slowly closing up for the day after a slow service, but not being taking time to practice their ballroom dancing in preperation for an upcoming event. Taking place over real time, Athol Fugard’s production is one that has a real sense to the phrase ‘Calm before the storm’, with a more or less soothing atmosphere with a playful side throughout the majority of the performance, directed by Roy Alexander Weise.
Taking sensitive topics such as racism and hatred attacks, Weise has somehow managed to find the right balance to bring the words in life in a way that makes us truly care for the three protagonists on stage; Boon brings a joyful warmth to Hally, Master Harold to Sam and Willie, and whilst the relationship with his parents, especially his mother's decision to bring his father home early from hospital, is clearly a rather passionate worry of his, the moments of flashbacks with Sam is hit with a smile. Msamati is harrowing in his role of Sam, the more authoritative of the two servants, when the play reaches its climax, whilst Animashaun is unrecognisable in such a straight role like Willie having come off playing Bottom at The Bridge Theatre’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Clearly a testing role but stunning dancer on the stage, he is captivating to watch when taking the backseat, which seems regular but his presence is still felt.
With the tearoom brought to life with thanks to Rajha Shakiry’s naturalistic setting which in itself is a marvel to scavenge around, the atmosphere throughout is one that should be noted; though early in the scheme of things laughter is to be shared, Fugard’s script is one that hits hard on impact, with rash decisions and unforgivable words and traits slowly unraveled. In moments of clear anxiety and judgement of authority, actions clearly speak louder than words in regards to Hally’s attitude to his once close and long-standing friends, something which truly is fascinating having understood the motion which stemmed through this semi auto-biograohical production.
Overall, ‘Master Harold’ and The Boys is a steady, sometimes drawn, but impactful production which clearly serves a purpose of understanding. With a remarkable production team bringing the likes of South Africa onto the stage, heightened by sheer excellence in the casting, this will certainly stand out in a rather powerful season from The National.